Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in schools in Brazil pre-and peri-COVID-19 pandemic: Are schools making any progress?

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2023 Jan;247:114069. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2022.114069. Epub 2022 Nov 7.


The previous paucity of data and research on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in schools in Brazil have been preventing an assessment of how safe and healthy schools are to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed first to assess the current situation of WASH in schools in Brazil and, second, to evaluate to what extent Brazilian schools have been making any progress in providing WASH since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data on WASH conditions in schools in Brazil was retrieved from the 2020 and 2021 Brazilian National School Census (BNSC). For the first objective, frequencies of 31 variables were calculated for the whole country and regions, considering all 173,700 schools from BNSC of 2021. Five main variables were considered as indicators of adequate WASH infrastructure in schools. T-test and ANOVA were used to assess differences in these five variables according to the locality, management model and regions. For the second objective only schools presented in both datasets (n = 170,422) were considered to compare WASH in schools pre- and peri-COVID-19 pandemic. Frequencies of 31 variables were calculated for the whole country and regions before and during the pandemic. Paired t-tests were conducted when differences in variables across the years were observed. At the present moment, the majority of schools in Brazil have bathrooms (97%), drinking water with quality suitable for human consumption (95%), improved sanitation facilities (78%) and solid waste collection (70%). Between 2020 and 2021, there was a mix of improvements and deterioration in the school's WASH infrastructure in all regions of the country. Overall, solely considering the WASH infrastructure, schools in the South and Southeast regions of the country are better prepared for the safe reopening. Nevertheless, public schools, schools located in rural areas and the North and Northeast regions of the country, are more in need of WASH interventions. Results indicate that little progress was achieved, and schools in Brazil are still in need of improvements.

Keywords: Bathroom; Education; SARS-CoV-2; Solid waste; Students; Water supply.

MeSH terms

  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Pandemics
  • Sanitation*
  • Schools
  • Water


  • Water